Frustrations with no signs of spiritual growth in teens

We’re all in youth ministry because we want to see teens move from being spiritually apathetic to being spiritually passionate, so when time passes and we see no signs of growth, it gets frustrating. Often we feel like we’re wasting our time, that our investment is pointless or that we should move our focus to a student that might produce more favorable results. It’s important to understand why we become frustrated because maybe then we won’t give up as easily on that “hard to reach” kid.

1. Unrealistic Expectations
What is it exactly that you expect to see in the teenager who’s supposedly not growing? Apparently you feel the student is not where you think they should be, but what is it that place where you think they should be right now? Perhaps your idea is unrealistic, especially since it’s quite possible that there are other factors in that student’s life and thought process that are unknown to you.

2. Remember: growth is a process
The process is longer for some than for others. It also takes a different path for everyone. There’s no such thing as microwavable spiritual fruit — it takes time to grow. Just because the fruit isn’t ripening as fast as you think it should doesn’t mean it won’t ripen eventually, maybe at a time when you’re not around to observe it. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in His timing.

3. We’re watching close-up
Staring at a pot of dirt to watch a seed grow is frustrating. You could stand there for a week and not see any evidence of growth. However, if you come back maybe three weeks after it’s been nurtured, watered and cared for, what was happening all that time beneath the surface is now displayed as a visual sign of growth. But if you stared at the plant the entire time, it would appear as if nothing was changing. Likewise, in our daily interaction with teens, we’re often watching for growth from a constant up-close perspective so we don’t notice the slow, but drastic, changes taking place. Look at your own life: where are you now spiritually compared to five years ago? I see my little brother and sister every couple months and they look more grown-up every time, but to my parents, who live with them, the growth is unnoticeable. Just because you don’t see the growth doesn’t mean it’s not there.

God never gives up on you. Don’t you give up on spiritually apathetic teens!

Posted on May 21, 2008

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